Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Hari Bairn is in his 20s and since graduating from drama school has worked in the West End, Off-West End and on a number of tours
Dicky Benfield is in his 40s and has worked in the West End, at the NT, the Globe, and in theatres around the country, as well as regular TV appearances
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management
Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television
Charlotte I think we have to, don’t we? That’s a genuine question. I have no idea if they will be able to.
Peter It depends who we’re talking about. Some employers have behaved much better than others. I understand each separate West End show has a different deal.
Dicky I think they will do their best, but we each must take personal responsibility. The managers will try to use the situation to their own ends, I’m sure.
Hari I think they’ll want to, but their hands are tied. There will be no work for ages.
Ros I trust that everyone will do their best to do the best for all of us.
Beryl I have no idea what our industry will even look like. I can’t imagine a full theatre right now. I don’t mean that as doom and gloom, I just really can’t see it.
Albert But are we just talking in general about people who were working and who should get notice money, or unemployment, or are we talking about the hundreds of actors who will get no help from the government and who may fall through the cracks? Can the industry help them?
Ros I think the industry will be much changed after this. Like Beryl, I don’t see a full theatre for some time.
Peter No one knows how long the lockdown is going to last. And my guess is it will be much longer than we think – at least for our industry.
Albert If social distancing stays in place, how can theatres open?
Dicky I think it will come down to having some sort of passport, those who have been tested and are safe will be allowed to enter the theatres.
Albert But will they want to?
Beryl I don’t want to sit in a theatre.
Albert Andrew Lloyd Webber has been very prominent in the papers regarding the grants his foundation is giving and how he wants to get theatre back, but others have been very quiet.
Beryl I don’t think it will happen until there is a proven vaccine.
Dicky I’d be happy to sit in a theatre.
Charlotte Surely there will come the tipping point when unless theatres (and other similar places) start to open again, they never will?
Albert Last week people were berating football players, who have now set up a fund. Are our successful producers – and there are quite a few of them – going to do the same? I know there’s help from Equity, but it’s minimal.
Peter I suppose screen work will restart earlier.
Beryl Also, it’s going to become more about home studio stuff and how that gets paid and protected. This could be when we, as a country, really show how little of a fuck we give about art and artists.
Dicky On the contrary, I think there will be an appetite for culture.
Jon What do we think of the Equity/Society of London Theatre agreement that was recently announced? It struck me that a lot of people in West End shows are watching their union debate with their boss about how much they should be paid.
Hari What does the agreement say? I should be on top of this but it passed me by.
Jon Basically, it says that contracts will be respected in some form or another – the pay and the length of engagement – even if a show hasn’t opened. I think there’s a grey area, though, with what happens to the people whose contracts have already been dissolved.
Albert Equity has no power. I know from personal experience that when producers sit around tables in the West End, and most probably in television too, the last union they take any notice of is Equity.
Peter I don’t agree, Albert, but you and I will never agree about Equity.
Charlotte I think I trust the smaller companies and theatres to look after us – they rely on the industry as much as we do. It’s the larger producers and big commercial shows that I don’t trust as they haven’t really made much noise at all over the past several weeks.
Beryl I think that sounds right.
Hari Yeah, I agree.
Albert The fact is that most of the big commercial shows don’t have money in the bank. That’s why there’s been such a hassle over ticket refunds. They spend your money before you see the show.
Jon That’s true of some producers, with reference to money in the bank. But other, long-running, inexpensive shows are sitting on a big profit.
Beryl I’m just not sure what powers our industry will have to help us.
Albert A lot of young actors do jobs on PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and are self-employed. That’s going to really stop them qualifying for the supposed government benefits that are not being handed out in the first place.
Hari That’s exactly what happened to my housemate.
Peter What we have to rely on is the thirst for our work. We’re being watched much more on television than ever before at the moment. It’s the future of live performance that is my greatest worry.
Charlotte Hopefully, people will want to see something live and have that interaction with a show. That’s what I’m clinging on to.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email firstname.lastname@example.org